Health and Safety Training and Competence

Competent Workers

Competence, in the health and safety context, is legally defined within the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations as:

‘the ability to perform to a required standard’, ……. a person shall be regarded as competent where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities……

Competency includes experience. After formal training, staff may be deemed ‘competent’ but must use the training and become confident.

In reality, it’s a mixed bag of factors that make someone competent:

  • Skill
  • Knowledge
  • Attitude
  • Training
  • Experience

A vital issue for organisations to consider is staff competence concerning the control of hazards and how this is identified, assessed and managed as part of a competence assurance system.

When designing a competency system, organisations need to be clear about what part people play in preventing incidents and what part training and competency play. In addition, competency needs to be appropriately linked to risk assessment and controls.

Acknowledgement of the limitations of personal competence is an essential part of the process. Proper preparation and/or appropriate qualifications may be necessary for assuring competence for a specific activity.

When training is needed

Induction training

Training upon recruitment provides an early opportunity to provide new starters with health and safety information and to make an impression regarding expected standards of behaviour.

The aims of health and safety induction training are to provide new starters with the information necessary to keep themselves safe as they familiarise themselves with the site, its activities and their roles and responsibilities.

Induction training should be arranged in several sessions over time. Bombarding a new starter with all they need to know about health and safety in a day is unlikely to be productive. Much of the required learning may be able to be covered through discovery learning in the workplace.

First day –

First day induction training is likely to be provided in a classroom environment, and would normally cover:

  • Health and safety policy statement
  • Site health and safety rules;
  • Hazards that may be encountered during the first few days, and the corresponding precautions;
  • Authorisations and limitations regarding movement around site and specific tasks and activities;
  • Emergency procedures including fire evacuation and first aid;
  • Reporting procedures for accidents, near misses and dangerous occurrences; and
  • Health surveillance procedures (if relevant)

The training given on day one should be simple and brief; it is often given off-the job, i.e. in a classroom.

First week –

During the first week the following information should be covered, probably using a combination of workplace learning and supplementary classroom sessions.

  • Health and safety policy;
  • Organisation and arrangements for health and safety;
  • Line management responsibilities for health and safety;
  • Key individuals such as the health and safety manager, safety representative, first-aider, fire marshals etc.
  • Consultation arrangements and the role of safety representatives;
  • Specific hazards and risks relevant to the job and area of work;
  • Workplace precautions and risk control systems required; and
  • Procedures for obtaining PPE etc.

First 3 to 6 months –

The remaining needs of the employee should be regularly reviewed and addressed during the early months of their career. The employee should remain under an appropriate level of supervision that is proportionate to their gradually increasing competence.

Refresher training

Competences will erode over time if unpractised – this is one of the main reasons for regular refresher training for first aiders, providing an opportunity to reinforce and refresh skills in a safe environment.

Regular refresher training can also provide an opportunity for an exchange of views between older, experience staff and younger staff which can help with motivation and norming of attitudes.

Additional training

Additional training will be required whenever workplace changes introduce new risks or increase existing risks e.g.:

The introduction of new or significantly changed processes, equipment or procedures

Job change

People who are transferred or promoted into a new job will invariably face new hazards and responsibilities. Wrong assumptions may be made about their competence and they may be reluctant to make their limitations public.

  • The introduction of new legislation
  • The introduction of new technology
  • Other drivers for health and safety training include:
    • Lessons learnt from investigating accidents or analysing accident trends;
    • Risk assessments identifying new hazards or inadequately controlled hazards; and
    • Management systems deficiencies identified through audit

This video will guide you through a useful method you can use for structuring answers to exam questions.

The question featured in the video is about training but the method can be used to answer questions on various topics.